The Color of Magic
by Terry Pratchett
This, the first in the on-going Discworld
series, is the first book in which the words THE END actually made me laugh out loud. If you want to experience a very funny, very intelligent piece of humor-fantasy-adventure, look no further.
The Color of Magic is about a world where... well, remember how certain ancient myths told that the world was a flat disc sitting on the shoulders of four elephants riding on the back of a giant turtle? That's this world, and it is full of thieves, assassins, wizards, demigods, demons, dragons, magical swords, walking luggage, and interdimensional paradoxes.
The humor and the philosophy in this book are strikingly similar to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, but the setting is different: instead of bug-eyed aliens, you have magical creatures; instead of a journalist, a two-headed politician, a "struggling actor," and a total loser fleeing in a starship from the demolition of Earth, you have a wizard, a hero, and a tourist fleeing on horseback from the flames of a walled city. Accompanied, not by a paranoid android, but by a steamer trunk that walks on its own 100 legs and has teeth that can bite off the arm of anyone who tries to rifle through it uninvited.
Adams and Pratchett even have a similar taste in character names. Compare Slartibartfast or Zaphod Beeblebrox with Rincewind, Twoflower, and Hrun the Barbarian. Of course my favorite character name so far was Zlorf Flannelfoot (president of the assassins guild).
In this maiden voyage of Discworld, you are introduced to this marvelous magical world where, as it is noted more than once, "million to one chances come up nine times out of ten." Our guide on this first journey is the cowardly wizard Rincewind, whose magical career is hampered by the fact that he only knows one spell, which (a) he must absolutely never, under any circumstances, use; and (b) prevents him from knowing any other spells. Rincewind lives a hand-to-mouth existence in the rancid-smelling, brutish twin city of Ankh-Morpork, of which the following description from the fourth book serves as an excellent example:
"Poets have tried to describe Ankh-Morpork. They have failed. Perhaps it's the sheer zestful vitality of the place, or maybe it's just that a city with a million inhabitants and no sewers is rather robust for poets, who prefer daffodils and no wonder. So let's just say that Ankh-Morpork is as full of life as an old cheese on a hot day, as loud as a curse in a cathedral, as bright as an oil slick, as colorful as a bruise and as full of activity, industry, bustle, and sheer exuberant busyness as a dead dog on a termite mound."
Enter Twoflower, from an isolated country on the far side of Discworld (not the flip-side, mind you), an insurance actuary who has decided to become the world's first, and so far only, tourist. Picture him as a pudgy little Asian guy with glasses & a camera slung around his neck. Only the camera is actually a box containing a small demon who paints really sharp pictures really fast.
Twoflower is the exact opposite of Rincewind, particularly as regards his inability to sense danger, his lack of the instinct of self-preservation. Which makes them an interesting team and, eventually, fast friends. Twoflower is accompanied by the Luggage, a magical trunk that walks on 100 tiny legs, seems to have more room on the inside than on the outside, and is, shall we say, ferociously loyal to its master.
Rincewind's job is to show Twoflower the sights of his "quaint, picturesque" corner of the world, while trying to keep both of them from being murdered, mugged, trampled by trolls, fried by dragons, sacrificed by priests, thrown of the rim of the world, and so forth. For part of their journey they are joined by a big, beefy, not too bright warrior hero named Hrun the Barbarian, and later by a "water troll" named Tethis. Meanwhile they are stalked by assassins, thieves, politicians, demons, gods and goddesses, dragons, Druids, astronomer-priests, and pirates, to name but a few of the perils they face. And of course, Rincewind, being a wizard, can only die if Death personally shows up to claim his soul, only he repeatedly fails to die on schedule because (Death finally decides) of a lack of efficiency on Rincewind's part.
The adventures of Rincewind and Twoflower continue in the second Discworld tale, The Light Fantastic.
Anyway, if you need a Douglas Adams fix, do not despair! All is not lost! There are at least a couple dozen Discworld books, and if you buy them one at a time, you should be able to decide for yourself whether they're worth the investment without too much financial risk...though I've read them all now, and I'm pretty much convinced!
Recommended Age: 14+
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